Early on Thursday morning, the day Once Upon A Time In Mumbai Dobaara released, the film’s protagonist — the handsome Akshay Kumar — was on his way to the airport to catch a flight to Bangkok while, the charming Shah Rukh Khan was rolling all over successfully selling his film, Chennai Express, even after a week of its release.
While Once Upon… was very much in the news, Akshay, to a great extent, was missing from the aggressive promotions. Some say, the star had too many movies to look after. Others feel his absence was a strategic and conscious move — a promotional trick to keep things understated. Whatever the reasons, the verdict of the film is out now. And it was Akshay Kumar all the way — with his style, charm and star power at its best! Since then, his role as the bad boy with a good heart has been earning him appreciation from across.
Looking back, this star called Akshay Kumar has truly proven his versatility through various genres over the 22 years he has worked in the industry. Whether it is action, comedy, drama or adventure films — he has made his mark in every genre.
For whatever his movies are worth, he has been delivering hits after hits and enriching his producers. That is a fact. And another fact is also that just like his repertoire his audiences too have multiplied over the years. Then it comes as no surprise that his upcoming line-up is as impressive as it is. It includes Anthony D’Souza’s Boss, Farhad and Sajid’s It’s Entertainment, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gabbar, Karan Johar co-production Gutka, Vipul Shah’s Namastey London 2 and remakes of the south film Thuppaki and the 1982 hit, Shaukeen, to name a few.
In this candid chat, hours before he boarded the flight to Bangkok, Akshay talks about everything that has ever touched his life, his career and more importantly, his soul.
What’s your take on Bollywood camps and coteries? You don’t seem to belong anywhere. Or do you have your camp as well?
Camps are not necessary, they are just excuses to put up your tent in someone else’s backyard and feed off their vegetable patch. I’m living proof that if I can do it without them (camps), anyone can. And no one belongs to anyone; we are all here, we work in and for the same industry. Yes, godfathers are appreciated and I think everyone should have one, as long as they help you fly, rather than clip wings in a controlling manner. I may have found it incredibly tough, but I made it (in the industry) on my own terms, and that is something no one can take away (from me).
We heard your little daughter, Nitara, will be called Nitara Khanna unlike your son who has been named Aarav Bhatia? Why is that so?
You see, both my children were born within months of the huge loss of first, my father, and then Tina’s. So when Aarav was born, we named him after my father, Hari Om Bhatia. And now we’ve named little Nitara after Tina’s (Twinkle Khanna) father, Rajesh Khanna. It’s just something we decided on. We feel while they are brother and sister, they both also have their own genetic identities.
After Rajesh Khanna’s death, do you feel more responsible for Twinkle’s family, including your mother-in-law, Dimple?
I took up my responsibilities the day I married Tina. Her family became my own the minute she said yes to my proposal. Dimpleji is my second mother and will always be treated like my mother; they are the most amazing family. I’m honoured to have the responsibility to take care of everyone; that is what I’m here for. If no one needed me, then what the hell am I working so hard for?
'The only time I’ve ever been confident in life was when I was a street fighter in Bangkok'
What’s playing on your mind now Akshay?
Right now at this minute, I’m thinking if there is anything more that I can do for my film and for the people (producer Ekta Kapoor and director Milan Luthria), who’ve given me the opportunity to play one of my most favourite characters of all times, don Shoaib Khan. I’m touring India and promoting my film and I’m giving every minute I can, but deep down you always wish you could have given more. After months and months of shooting these few weeks of promotions are not enough to tell the Nation that, ‘Love is the most powerful drug in the world, that even the most powerful men commit the worst crimes just to get their hands on them’. This film features a role that I’ve never had the pleasure of essaying before. So, I would do anything for Milan and Ekta. No matter what the outcome is, this has been an incredible experience. Now I feel it’s time to hand it over to God.
Are you confident or super confident about the film?
The only time I’ve ever been confident in life was when I was a street fighter in Bangkok, because if I didn’t have confidence to win then, I’d be a dead meat on the street within minutes. When it comes to my real work, I have no confidence. I have no opinions and I have no problems. I just give my best. It doesn’t matter how much I love the film or how brilliant I think it is. It’s out of my hands.
Today you have everything you once wished for. What makes you the happiest?
What makes me genuinely happy is being able to give my family the life I once could only dream of. My life and my present status in Bollywood are still new for me. I have been a determined struggler for many more years than I’ve been rich or famous. It’s every boy’s dream to take care of his mother, provide everything to his wife, and pamper his kids without any worries. Happy isn’t the word. Blessed is more like it.
Has there been any point in your life when you’ve felt powerless?
All the time. I’m powerless even right now; my fame, money, power means only so much. My life is in the hands of the audience’s mood. My film’s success rides purely on how people are feeling this week; are they in the mood for a romantic gangster based drama filled with intense raw action? I’d call that powerlessness.
You have proved to be one of the most prolific actors amongst your contemporaries. So, why the rush?
You mean why the rush to make so many films? Basically, if I die tomorrow, I don’t want to go with the thought that I didn’t accomplish enough or I was waiting for my next project to start. No, I want to depart knowing that I didn’t waste even a
second sitting idle; that so many people earned money from the amount of films I worked in. When I sign a project, I just check the
credits and the number of people employed because of the film. I sleep well at night because I know that more the number of projects I take up, more will be the bread and butter people would get. That’s enough to make any man want to get up and make more films.
You’re venturing into regional cinema like Punjabi, Marathi and Bengali. Is it money or your love for cinema that is driving you to this?
Purely love for cinema. It’s like my own private cinematic charity. I love to give opportunities to people, professionals, newcomers, artistes, scripts, cameramen, crews and directors. There is a lot of talent hiding in the woodwork and it’s a gift to be able enough to provide a platform to so many incredible projects. There’s benefit for everyone — my production house can be busy, ideas can be turned into reality, dreams can come true and so much work can be accomplished. I couldn’t ask for more. As long as everyone stays loyal to their work, I’m pretty much the happiest guy.
What do power, fame and money mean to you?
They mean an awful lot of responsibility. Power is dangerous to possess. I have always experienced that a man or a woman, who rose from the depths of despair, handles power with much more grace, than a man born with power. Fame, on the other hand, can ruin the humblest of people. I’ve watched many famous people in the world suffer under the very spotlight that had put them there. As for money, everyone knows how to look after it. But what you choose to do with it makes the difference. So, power, fame and money can kill you as easily as it could by never having it in the first place.
What is the most important thing in your life?
My family. I love my work, but I live for my family. If I fail tomorrow, they will love me, feed me and support me till I stand on my feet again. No amount of hard work or films will ever change what’s most important and no amount of money or success will ever change my answer. My children are the only reason I work so hard. Before they came into my life, I worked to survive. But now, I work for their pride.
You’re somebody who loves sports. Do you plan to own a sports team someday?
Loving sports doesn’t mean you have to go buy a team. I love helicopters, but I haven’t bought one (yet). I’d rather play the sport I love, rather than owning a part of it. I’d support, promote and encourage a sport rather than sitting there wearing a T-shirt, proving that I have the money to own a team, but not the stamina to play in it. Maybe one day, when I’m old and grey and can’t play anymore, I’ll venture down that path. But as of now, I’d rather get my fingers dirty on the field than use them for emptying my pockets off the field.